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It is a principle that shines impartially on the just and on the unjust that once you have a point of view all history will back you up. It is a principle that shines impartially on the just and on the unjust that once you have a point of view all history will back you up.Aside from the question of talent, there is not, excepting Walt Whitman, one American writer who comes home to a modern American with that deep, moving, shaking impact of personality for which American literature was hurting, the young critic Van Wyck Brooks wrote in the three essays gathered here (published in 1915, 1918, and 1927).
Brooks is also well known through his work as a historian of American literature during the 19th century, and he produced a series of studies, which were known and published as the “Makers and Finders” series.
One of his books, The Flowering of New England, won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 1937.
America's pioneer spirit pushed people toward the utilitarian, which stood in opposition to the artistic and free-wheeling.
Brooks found writers such as Theodore Dreiser, William Dean Howells, and Jack London crass - not merely in their subject matter, but in their pursuit of popularity. Henry James was brilliant, but he decamped to Europe, which for Brooks was a much more nourishing environment.
In the second period, from 1932 until his death, Brooks upheld conservative values, idealizing the American past as a firm foundation upon which to build a strong body of literature.
Critics generally agree that in the earlier era Brooks was the more compelling thinker, and that much of Brooks's later writing is ill-informed, sentimental, and rambling.As exemplars of the two he gives Jonathan Edwards and Benjamin Franklin, respectively.His criticisms of Emerson are particularly fascinating: "The truth is that Emerson was imperfectly interested in human life; he cared little for experience or emotion, possessing so little himself." The impersonal manifested itself in his insistence on abstraction; "this accounts for the way in which his thoughts inevitably flew for refuge to capital letters, emerging as Demonology, Creeds, Prudence, the Ideal..." The idealism of men like Emerson and Bronson Alcott was passive, untethered to anything in society, to anything real.Van Wyck Brooks became well known through his work as a literary critic, although he generally is not considered an author Van Wyck Brooks was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, on February 16, 1886.Van Wyck Brooks became well known through his work as a literary critic, although he generally is not considered an author of literary works himself.)As an analysis of the damage wrought upon American culture (literature) by our lack of inter-class cohesion, and just generally centrifugal society, the book is excellent, and is in some ways striking confirmation of the model I've been working with.That said, it's preposterous the way he blames Puritanism for our highbrow/lowbrow split.We had some natural talent - Whitman, for example - but there were not enough nutrients in the literary soil for American writers to truly thrive.The reasons were several: America celebrated industry and commerce at the expense of creativity and the arts.The essays regain some momentum near the end, as Brooks praises Walt Whitman for combining the many impulses of American literature and offering something genuinely new.His belief that conflict, specifically the wrestling with contradictory forces like imagination and reality, produces character is inspiring, and aligns well with the kinds of messages Rainer Rilke and Herman Hesse put in their writings.